Rensselaer awarded NIH grant to support cheminformatics research

10/13/05

TROY, N.Y. -- Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute has been selected as one of six universities nationwide to be awarded a two-year, nearly $1 million planning grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) that will provide a foundation for the development of a center for cheminformatics research. The Rensselaer Exploratory Center for Cheminformatics Research (RECCR) will bring together an interdisciplinary research team to seek improved understanding of the relationships between chemical structure and function for use in biotechnology applications.

"We are working to build a center for cheminformatics research that will allow Rensselaer to strengthen the rich collaborative environment that already exists here between research groups specializing in health-related laboratory projects and those with expertise in the area of data science," said Curt M. Breneman, professor of chemistry and chemical biology and principal investigator for the project. "One major application of this work will be to identify emerging technologies that can predict chemical compound behavior for use in drug discovery and other biotechnology processes."

Cheminformatics is the application of computational techniques to problems in chemistry, such as understanding chemical structures and their biological activities for use in drug discovery. Bioinformatics is the application of computational techniques to problems in biology, such as making sense of large amounts of gene sequencing data for use in identifying genetic markers of disease.

The RECCR will engage researchers from varied disciplines who are interested in using cheminformatics, bioinformatics, and machine learning techniques to predict the behavior of chemical compounds in biological systems. Participating departments at Rensselaer include chemistry and chemical biology, chemical and biological engineering, computer science, decision sciences and engineering systems, mathematical sciences, and physics, applied physics, and astronomy.

The center will be physically located in the Rensselaer Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies building with research collaborations occurring throughout campus and at other universities. After two years, the researchers will be eligible to apply for additional NIH funding to support a national resource center for cheminformatics.

Additional members of the Rensselaer faculty and staff involved in the RECCR project are: Kristin Bennett, professor of mathematical science; Wilfredo Colon, associate professor of chemistry and chemical biology; Steven Cramer, professor of chemical and biological engineering; Mark Embrechts, associate professor of decision sciences and engineering systems; Angel Garcia, senior constellation chaired professor in biocomputation and bioinformatics and professor of physics; Shekhar Garde, associate professor of chemical and biological engineering; James Moore, professor of chemistry and chemical biology; Nagamani Sukumar, senior research associate in chemistry and chemical biology; Mark Wentland, professor of chemistry and chemical biology; Mohammed Zaki, assistant professor of computer science; and Michael Zuker, professor of mathematical sciences.

"As Rensselaer continues its expansion into biotechnology and life sciences research, we applaud this interdisciplinary collaboration between researchers as an excellent illustration of how Rensselaer will contribute to accelerating discovery," said Omkaram "Om" Nalamasu, vice president for research.

Source: Eurekalert & others

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